Clay in the Potters Hands (Part 2)
Hope and Warning (Continuing Chapter 6 of Run With The Horses):
“The clay can frustrate the potter’s intention and cause him to change it: as the quality of the clay determines what the potter can do with it, so the quality of a people determines what God will do with them.” (John Bright – Jeremiah)
Do the people feel like they are stuck with their lives and will simply make the best (or worst!) of what is there? Jeremiah will not agree to their fatalism. He continues to preach. He continues to confront. His visit to the potter’s house and his sermon about pottery-making are put to use in making the people responsive to the God who is mercifully shaping their lives into what is useful and beautiful. In such a setting even His judgments will be seen to be mercies.
In their recalcitrant, mulish unbelief the people will experience evil far beyond what they ever supposed possible, climaxing in the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile, but they will never be discarded.
God the Potter
This is one of Jeremiah’s most powerful sermons. The image has captured the attention of people of faith everywhere. Not the least of the reasons for its effectiveness is that Jeremiah experienced it before he preached it. For no act of imagination, prophetic or artistic, is powerful if it is not wrought out of the inner life. Jeremiah preaches to the people what he has lived himself.
All truth must be experienced personally before it is complete, before it is authentic. Jeremiah experienced his life as the created work of God. He was not a random accumulation of cells; he was formed by loving, skilled hands. He wasn’t a potentiality of material just waiting for the lucky time when he could, by asserting his will, make something of his life; he was already made something by God, formed for his purposes. And when we are not useful or beautiful we are reshaped. Painful, but worth it.
Jeremiah’s potter shows me what I become as I submit my life to the creative and merciful God. Our lives become the pottery that makes possible the emergence of civilization-what Jeremiah called the ‘people of God,’ what Jesus called the ‘kingdom of God,’ what Augustine called the ‘city of God.’ It is no longer every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. We are containers, “regions of being” in Heiddeger’s words, in which love and salvation and mercy are conserved and shared. Everything is connected and makes sense now-the shape of creation and the shape of salvation, God’s shaping hand and the shape of my life.